Pain Relief Options

With lambing fast approaching, now is a good time to consider what pain relief to use at lamb marking. There are currently four products available for sheep for alleviating pain from mulesing, tail docking and/or castration, specific to the different techniques.

The first on the scene was a topical gel, ‘Tri-Solfen’. Tri-Solfen can be applied to mulesing, surgical castration and surgical tail-docking wounds, and contains a mix of a local anaesthetic (to numb pain at the site), a disinfectant and adrenalin (to help reduce blood loss). Since its introduction in 2012, many producers have taken it up and incorporated Tri-Solfen use as a standard part of the mulesing process. It can be bought over the counter at your local farm supplier.

The next two products introduced were systemic pain relief products containing the anti-inflammatory drug meloxicam. ‘Metacam 20’ is an injection, while the other ‘Buccalgesic’ is an oral gel (administered in the space between the molar teeth and the inside of the cheek).

Just like a Nurofen tablet in humans, livestock anti-inflammatories reduce pain and inflammation throughout the body. Several trials have demonstrated that by managing pain and inflammation in animals, we are supporting a better, quicker recovery and a return to normal behaviours faster than those that don’t that receive effective pain relief. These products are registered for use in sheep and cattle and can only be purchased from a veterinarian.

The newest product on the block is 'Numnuts'. It is a ring applicator that applies a standard rubber ring while injecting a local anaesthetic ‘NumOcaine’ to provide targeted pain relief to the site of ring placement. It can be used for castration and tail docking of lambs. NumOcaine needs to be purchased from your veterinarian.

Best-practice lamb marking would be to give both a systemic anti-inflammatory and local anaesthetic. However, you need to consider how that additional step, for example giving meloxicam, would fit into your lamb-marking process. The benefits of pain relief, in addition to the quicker recovery time, is likely to extend to consumer demand and welfare requirements. 

At the end of the day, if you can reduce the level of pain experienced by an individual animal you are providing the best care for your animals.

Summary of available products

For further information contact your Livestock Consultant or veterinarian.

Adopted from an article by Dr. Mark Corrigan, Local Land Services, NSW